Monday, September 27, 2010

LBP2 - Holy freakin' crud, it's versatile!

LBP was a pretty standard platformer with a totally awesome create mode.  LBP2 is going to completely blow the original out of the water with its create mode.  Seriously.  Check it out - the below video was made with in-game tools by one of the beta users.  Kudos to you, friend.

As you can see, this is NOT a platform level - or so it seems, at least.  Levels are designed similarly to how they were in the first game, but there are a veritable crapload of new tools and functionality added that totally changes the game for the awesome.  If you liked the first one, pick it up.  If you're on the fence, do yourself a favor and pick it up...  if you don't have a PS3, well... pick one up, because the old 'the PS3 has no games' argument is not true any more.  Then pick LBP2 up...

At least, when January rolls around.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fear THIS cuteness...

Dead Space was a frightening game..
This makes it ALL better.  Now we really know what the Necromorphs wanted, right?
Thanks to various news sites for posting it - as you see, the Destructoid logo is embedded in it  :D


Little Big Planet 2 has been delayed until next year.  Rahhh!

For those of you who don't have a PS3... or if you don't but haven't looked into the original game... Little Big Planet was part solid platformer, part level-creator, all parts awesome.  If you think it's too 'young' for you, you're most likely wrong as some real talent has gone into a lot of levels.

My brother, Lil' N, created a fully-featured object selector.  It works really well, it's a lot of fun...  and the amount of both logic-based thinking AND mathematical prowess required to build some of the things that you can build is downright astounding.  If I sit and think about it for a while I start to understand.  My brain doesn't seem to work that way  :D

If you haven't seen it yet, go check out LittleBigPlanet Central's "Logic Pack" levels.  They're instructional AND funny, as they teach you basic logic gates and how to use AND craft them in LBP.

LBP 2 looks to seriously ramp everything up a TON, so while I'm a little RAHHH-ish about the delay I don't mind too much as long as the end product is more stable and better for it.

To any Molecules out there - I know you won't read this, but I'd LOVE an invite to the LBP2 beta.  (Makes that really REAAAAALY effective 'pretty please' face.  You know the one.)

In closing, grappling hooks are awesome.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ico, Shadow of the Colossus - Games as Art

Mister Roger Ebert - acclaimed media critic - is a man whose opinion is respected.  He's well educated and generally considers the implications of his statements in broad fashion before he makes them.  He stated at one point that Video Games will never be considered art; he later partly recanted with the following statement:

Having once made the statement above [Video games can never be art,] I have declined all opportunities to enlarge upon it or defend it. That seemed to be a fool's errand, especially given the volume of messages I receive urging me to play this game or that and recant the error of my ways. Nevertheless, I remain convinced that in principle, video games cannot be art. Perhaps it is foolish of me to say "never," because never, as Rick Wakeman informs us, is a long, long time. Let me just say that no video gamer now living will survive long enough to experience the medium as an art form. 

 Ebert is no fool.  He understands a basic distinction between entertainment and what many artists consider 'ART' - Art is a form of self expression, an extension of ones' self.  Art is a tale craftily woven and presented in a guided form.  Entertainment is many of these things presented in a more.... chaotic fashion, if you will.

The form of art that video games presents is more that latter, but I submit that in their own way they ARE an art form.  My primary examples are Ico - a visually stunning, light-action game where you as a young boy must guide a mysterious girl out of a seemingly abandoned castle while protecting her from the shadows that dwell within - and Shadow of the Colossus, a game where a young man enters a forbidden land and makes a deal with the ruler apparent of the land to restore his love's life to her.  A game that is not only about conquering the demons without, but also the demons within.

In many ways playing these games and going from objective to objective leaves little time to appreciate the subtle beauty of these two games.  They are stunningly beautiful, especially for the PS2 days.  Their beauty, their visual aesthetic, is not what I wish to focus on at the moment.  Consider the short descriptions I presented above.  While the logic of Mr. Ebert's argument is sound, and while I agree - at least in part - that nearly all of the games that come to market today are not Art in the traditional definition... those descriptions are no less than you might hear a good friend describing vaguely their favorite stories from an author.

Games are little more than collaborative, interactive stories.  Mister Ebert is a film critic, and throwing these interactive segments that give the player a voice on how the story plays must make him a bit uncomfortable and if it does it REALLY should not.  The overall story of most games - provided they are presented in a linear fashion - does not change.  This is less true for games like Mass Effect and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, whose narratives change depending on players' choices.

Games are a form of art that we all experience together.  Some are short stories, some are epic space operas.  Some, like Ico and SotC, are quick at times and deceptively slow at others.  I don't expect Mr. Ebert will change his mind, but I would hope he sees the obvious [to me] example of games as another form of storytelling.

Sports Champions | The Non-Demo Events | VERDICT

Aside from table tennis and disc golf - the two demo events I touched on before - there are 4 other events.

Gladiator, Archery, Bocce Ball and Volley Ball

In case you haven't played or seen much on these I'll touch on them briefly.

The gladiator arena mode is a straightforward brawler where you use one or two motion controllers to block with your shield and attack with your weapon.  It's engaging and enjoyable, and it's surprisingly satisfying to pound your enemy into the dust.

Archery is very much what one would expect.  This and the gladiator modes are better used with two controllers, it feels far more authentic that way.  On the Bronze difficulty level - which I played on to experience the gameplay first.  I'll move to more difficult levels as time progresses - there is a small guideline that shows how the arrow will drop.  Physics and gravity matter in this game, and you have to account for how the arrow will drop over time.  It's fun, plain and simple.

Bocce Ball was a pleasant surprise.  I played it years ago [IRL] and haven't for a long time since, but it was nice to recall how fun it was in many ways.  If you're not familiar with it, the game is pretty simple.  One player throws a small, light-colored ball (white or yellow, usually) from a defined starting line and both players take turns throwing larger, heavier balls to get them as close as possible to the small ball.  The closest player wins points, and additional points are granted for additional winning-players' balls within a certain radius of the small ball.

Volley Ball... heck, it works pretty well.  It's basically the game we all know and love/hate.  It's also one I need more practice with as I KNOW I was playing badly because I wasn't understanding something in the control scheme.  User error if you will.  I'll come back to this event at some point.

The other two events
Table Tennis and disc golf are both pretty fun.  Adding a good bit of spin on the ball in table tennis is fun and works pretty well, and between bocce and this my arm is sore.  Ow.

Pre-VERDICT Thoughts:  If you're not picking it up as part of the Move/Camera/Game bundle I'd say give it a little time before you do.  It's a good title, really... but I really wanted to be able to make my own participant and as far as I've seen and read elsewhere you're stuck using one of the stock characters.  A nice, simple character creator would have gone a LONG way to customizing and personalizing the first-impression experience for me.  Any other nitpicks about controller weirdness is really due to my being in a too-low-light-without-enough-room-to-Move [see what I did there?  Oh, hush!  No groaning!] setting.

VERDICT:  BUY as part of the bundle as it offsets the cost considerably.  Otherwise RENT or borrow from a friend if you want the full experience of the 4 non-demo games.  It's worth owning, but I'm not sure if it's worth the $40 price tag for something that does a good job at showing off some of the Move's capabilities but is essentially what Wii Sports was for the Wii... but without the captivating bowling game.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Silver Lining... NOW!

Just in case you have not yet, go to and download it!

The team - which I'm part of as a Q.A. Tester - is very proud and excited for
everyone to try it out and hear what people have to say.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Silver Lining

Okay, if you know me personally you know that I enjoy adventure games... by that I don't mean the adventure/action/platforming goodness that exists in games like Jak and Daxter, Ratchet and Clank, Kingdom Hearts, Super Mario Bros. and a whole bunch of others that fall under that kind of broad general label...

I mean games like King's Quest, Space Quest, Police Quest, Quest for Glory.... um, SBCGFAP...
They made you think abstractly, they made you ponder and consider possibilities.  They told a story.

Those point-and-click games of yore are holding on tight in this era of instant-action and immediate gratification.
As of September 18th, The Silver Lining - an unofficial-but-IP-Holder-approved fan sequel to the King's Quest franchise - will see the release of Episode 2, Two Households.  It's totally FREE - won't cost you anything!

Do yourself a favor and download it when it's released.  The original games were all fun romps through the
Kingdom of Daventry and the lands beyond its borders... they are worth playing.  If you're concerned solely with graphics, please try your best to get over that... I'll say it again.  They are worth playing.

Pick it up at when the time comes!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The ESRB and its Ratings

For those of you out there who don't know what it is, ESRB stands for Entertainment Software Rating Board. They're an organization whose purpose is to review the games coming out under strict procedures. The determine which age range a game is best targeted for.

They're the ones who decide if a game is "E for Everyone" or not.

ESRB enforcement at a retailer level is currently voluntary... but if I sell an M rated game to a kid under 17 I'll be fired on the spot. I had to turn away a kid whose birthday wasn't for 2 days. It sucked for him, and it sucked for me because I couldn't [and wouldn't] just bend the rules my workplace runs under.

The thing is, I believe in the ESRB ratings... generally. I think they're more accurately placed on the games than the MPAA to Movies. I do my best to make certain parents who come in and are buying games are aware of the content in the games they buy. I've lost a lot of sales that way, but I'd rather not have a 8 year old kid play games that aren't targeted to him. Developers create games with a target audience in mind, and an 8 year old doesn't fall in the 28-34 year demographic... his/her parents do.

To the parents out there who don't care: Please, PLEASE DO care just a little more than you do... parents I've dealt with seem constantly surprised when I describe the sorts of things you can do in games like Grand Theft Auto. Don't give in to a pouting, self-entitled child. You're the parent, so BE the parent and be involved in your child's life. To all you parents who watch what their kids play then set and enforce restrictions, thank you for monitoring your kids and giving a crud about what they play. You make my job easier, because I don't have to bear scornful glares from kids who try their best to convince me they can handle the M rated games like an adult and I have to turn them away. Games are a form of entertainment and distraction but they're no substitute for real interaction.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Playstation Move (Round 2)

This morning we held a Move event at the store where I work - this time the Sony representative had 2 Move controllers, and that was a nice change as we were able to demo all the 2-Player action.

Start The Party CAN be played solo, but it's a LOT more enjoyable with two or more people.  The demo we tried had a fairly decent set of minigames, quickfire challenges, etc. that are really very fun.  They remind of of WarioWare in some ways, just with a far more precise control scheme.

Tumble is a bit like Jenga meets Boom Blox.  It's a take on the stack-stuff-until-it-collapses thing, where you and your opponent get three blocks of various shapes and sizes that you must stack on top of one another, building for both a bit of stability but also to make it difficult for your opponent to build on your play.

Sports Champions was fun like before, but now I was able to experience the two player table tennis.  It's just as accurate in lots of ways, but unfortunately the sun was directly behind us and was interfering with the camera and the Move controller's lighted orb so it sometimes wouldn't recognize motions properly.  This really won't be an issue in pretty much any home out there, as most of you will likely have blinds in your room to shield your television sets from the sun's glare.

So... my biggest point to make.  Be sure you have enough room between you and the camera/tv area.  5-6 feet at minimum, generally, is a safe bet.  Most living rooms should have sufficient space.

Another thing Move begs for?  Lightsabers.

Check out a video previewing the Move demo disc.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Metroid: Other M and Beyond.

So, a word of warning and caution - this post MAY contain minor spoilers.  To best explain and review the game itself I have to be able to talk about plot points to a small degree.  I'll keep it very vague and non-spoilery if I can.

For several years I've played the Metroid games.  They've always been interesting and fun for their gameplay and atmospheric immersion, but you had to turn to various manga sources to find out a little bit about Samus' past.  Her motivations, her reasons for being a bounty hunter --- some of these are explained to a degree, some of these are implied.

Spoiler time, but not really dealing with the most recent game - Other M - itself.  In the official Metroid manga we learn about Samus' past, youth and time under the Chozo elders, time with the Federation and a CRUD load more.  It's licensed, so I can't provide a link, but if you're interested in learning more it's not too hard to find.  Suffice to say, it has a LOT of back-story that helps in understanding some bits about Samus' character.

That's not to say her characterization is exactly consistent.  Her manga persona is almost care-free at times, whereas Samus-in-game(s) is mostly serious about the work she's doing.  This slight disconnect isn't a big deal when you consider that a good portion of the first volume takes place prior to the original Metroid game and the manga as a whole becomes a sort of coming of age tale for her as she learns, grows and fights towards the events of that game.

Major things about Samus that you should understand:

Samus' birth parents died, killed in a raid on a research outpost conducted by Ridley.  She met Ridley when she was a child, about 3 or 4 years old, and he spared her life at that point.  She was taken in and raised by the Chozo as one of their own, underwent a bit of adaptive genetic manipulation to make it possible to live long-term on Zebes, grew up and learned to fight.  She left after that point, went to the academy, faced her tenure under Adam Malkovich, and left there after a time to become a lone bounty hunter.

Other M does this established past both justice and adds a decent amount of useful exposition, providing deeper connections between Samus and other characters.  The story itself is passable, if a little hard to swallow at times...  I found one of the most interesting facets of how the story plays out to be the little white fluffball creature and what happens to it.

That definitely doesn't mean the story in uninteresting, but... well, just play the game and you'll likely see WHY I like the creature's subplot so much.

The rest of the story is interesting in its own ways - Samus is far less clinical in her interactions with others, showing genuine emotion when those around her are facing danger.  Unfortunately, this means she faces the occasional freeze-because-some-past-traumatic-event-is-causing-me-to-be-terrified thing.  Samus HAS a past... she has a history with the GF soldiers she meets right at the beginning of the game (minor spoiler al--- aw, whatever) and most importantly that history involves Adam Malkovich.  In the games themselves, Adam was introduced as an A.I. character that guided Samus through the research facility where the X were running rampant... the events of Metroid 4  (Fusion)

Other M steps back to a time when Adam was still alive.

I personally feel that Other M does the series as a whole a great amount of justice.  So many reviews complain about how it's not a Metroid game because of one thing or another.  Nonsense.  It's faithful to the character of Samus, and says a whole lot more about her than a simple cookie-cutter sequel to the original 2D games would.  It shows that - despite what she has faced and no matter how hard things have been - she is still human underneath her armor.  If you don't like that Nintendo has tried to take steps to make her easier to relate to, then I say 'get over it!  Seriously!' because if any character needs a solid voice, it's Samus.

She's the center of a very large science fiction based universe, and there are still a lot of questions left to be answered... let's let Nintendo decide how they want things to play out and just enjoy the ride.